Posit this: You are parenting a 15 year old boy. He has access to Twitter and Facebook and on-line gaming. He's one of five children. You, the Dad, work out of town. You have a job that puts you in the public eye. You have deeply held religious beliefs. You've stood up for what you think is right, even though 90% of your constituents disagreed with you. You took your boys on a survival trip to the Marshall Islands, and posted a video edited by that 15 year old boy on YouTube.
You are rated 92% by Pat Robertson's Christian Coalition, whose mandate includes this platform:
Protest anti-Christian bigotry and defend the rights of people of faith.
You sat on the stage next to Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and her husband, USN Commander Mark Kelly in front of 2000 well-wishers at a memorial service on the UofA mall. I met you then. You smiled, you shook my hand, you posed for pictures with your wife and Gabby and Mark; I know, because I took them. You told me how sorry you were for my loss, for my injuries, and how glad you were that I had taken the time to show a child how our government works.
Sounds pretty sweet, doesn't it? Peel back a layer or two of the onion, though, and there's a rotten core.
It seems that you stopped paying attention to Tanner in 2011. That's when he posted this video to YouTube. (If you are squeamish - that is to say, a rational human being - you may want to believe the words and skip the video)
I'm not sure how you missed this, how you let this slide by, how you didn't delete it from the web and put the poor child into counseling immediately, but you did. At least, that's what the public record shows. There's no mention anywhere of your reaction to this video. If this is not a cry for help, I wonder what you think one might look like?
Two years pass, and that same child is discovered to use niggerkiller as his gaming moniker. An acquaintance stole a joke and got some laughs; your child called him out on Twitter by ending the tweet like this: Jew. His posts and tweets are replete with comments labeling others as faggots.
I wonder how clueless you are. Don't you follow your own child's social media streams? While you are busy keeping me safe from those who want to prevent me from bringing a loaded weapon into a bar on a Saturday night, your own child is spewing vitriol. Perhaps you ought to start to pay a little more attention to your own home before you begin to worry about mine.
ABC's Phoenix affiliate ran a story on this issue. The anchors and the correspondent sighed over the difficulties of raising "kids with all this technology .... they are so young, they don't understand the consequences." That is certainly true. That is not the issue here.
Senator Flake's apology is short and sweet: "This language is unacceptable, anywhere," Flake continued. "Needless to say, I’ve already spoken with him about this, he has apologized, and I apologize as well."(from http://livewire.talkingpointsmemo.com/entry/sen-flake-apologizes-for-sons-offensive-slurs-on)
To whom has Tanner apologized? To his parents? They are, I assume, neither gay nor Jewish nor black. Is he apologizing for bringing shame to the family name? That's the only way I see an in-the-family apology having any credibility at all.
Kids who grow up in a household where those kinds of slurs are acceptable post them on line. Kids whose parents make it a point to correct their behavior, who model positive actions, who do not tolerate demeaning the of others, don't end up naming their avatars niggerkiller. And if they do, their folks find out about it in no time.
Big Cuter was a big gamer in high school. It swallowed up his world. Not only did I know his screen name (Belhothar, if you are interested), I knew his password. It wasn't an issue for him to share it with me. It was a condition of being allowed to play the game. Although I spent years decrying the game as "bad, dumb, stupid, and evil," I also spent more time than I'm happy to remember watching him vaporize orcs and demons. I was as involved as a non-gamer-mom could be. I made sure he was safe. I made sure the environment in which he was playing was not detrimental to his ongoing mental health. The door was open when he was on-line.
Five is a lot of kids. Working in Washington when the family is in Mesa is tough. Too bad. Your son put a fake gun to his head and pulled the trigger. He posted that video on YouTube. How did you miss that? Your son routinely used words that are abhorrent in modern society. How did that slip past you?
I know that you don't pay attention to the wishes of your constituents; your vote on the Manchin-Toomey background checks bill made that eminently clear. I suppose I could find some comfort in the fact that you don't seem to pay much more attention to your children.
This is more than "insensitivity." This speaks to character. There is a de-personalization of the other which is more disturbing to me. The facility with which the words were used, the lack of super ego controls which allowed them to be published, the saccharine apology.... none of them enhance my opinion of you or your family.
Am I criticizing your parenting? Absolutely. You are a public figure. You should be a role model for the young people in my life. Your son besmirches your constituents and you have a private discussion and settle for an apology? Where is the lesson learned?
I know what the lesson I have learned contains - a heartfelt desire to have someone with real family values represent me in the Senate